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How Peter’s Prison Escape Shows Us the Power of Prayer

How Peter’s Prison Escape Shows Us the Power of Prayer

For anyone who thinks that the Bible is dull and boring, I would encourage you to read the story of Peter’s escape from prison. There are many adventures, wars, romances, comedies – all wrapped up in God’s Word. The Lord creatively uses the stories of men and women to point to His existence and glory. Today we are going to journey in and learn about Peter's escape from prison.

Peter’s Experiences with Jesus

Peter’s escape from prison came after Jesus’ ascension and is found in Acts 12. Peter’s time with Jesus before His ascension proved to be evident of a time of growth and trust in the power and work of Christ.

For example, Peter:

- Saw Jesus provide the miracle of the fish

- Followed Jesus immediately

- Was one of Jesus’ 12 disciples and closest friends

- Walked on the water with Jesus

- Was at the transfiguration

- Allowed Jesus to wash his feet

- Prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus

- Denied Jesus three times before His death

- Affirmed Jesus three times after His resurrection

All of these experiences and more created a deep sense of trust and confidence in His Savior. This means when we read Acts 12, it comes as no surprise how Peter sees God work in a miraculous way and knows how to be a witness to others in the midst of his escape.

At the start of this chapter, James the brother of John was killed by King Herod and the king arrested Peter during the festival of Unleavened Bread. What I find personally astounding is that this festival was the Passover. This means that this would have been the same time as when Jesus met with the disciples in the upper room before His crucifixion. Because it was Passover, Peter was going to be tried by Herod after the Passover. He was guarded by four squads of four soldiers. He was outnumbered.

The Power of Praying People

Verse 5 shows the importance and power of prayer. Acts 12:5 says, “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” What seems hopeless to a people grieving the loss of their other friend James, does not prevent them from praying for Peter.

Acts 12:6-7 says, “The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. ‘Quick, get up!’ he said, and the chains fell off Peters wrists.”

Here we have a man who is in prison, guarded and way outnumbered. He is chained between two strong soldiers and guarded by others. However, an angel of God appears in his cell. He wakes up Peter, instructs him, and frees him from his chains. Wow! God heard the prayers of the people and freed Peter.

Afterwards, the angel has Peter put on his clothes and sandals. I love this because the angel wants Peter to be honorable and dressed before they escaped. Peter actually believes it is a vision and not reality (Verse 9). I know that I would easily wonder the same.

Parallel to our Freedom in Christ

Acts 12:10 is amazing. It reads “They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.”

The angel walks with Peter right by two separates guards and God opened an iron gate. They go through the gate to freedom. I think about how powerful this visual is in the fact that we were once enslaved in bondage to sin and death. However, God made a way through Jesus to bring us to Himself. I wonder if, at the approach to the iron gate, that Peter remembered the words of His Savior Jesus from John 10:9 “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”

This brings us hope because we cannot find a way out from our sins. Our only hope is Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. He is our gate and when we believe in Him, we may enter the kingdom of God.

Confidence in Our Great God

Peter goes on to realize that it was truly the Lord who brought him out of the prison (Acts 12:11). He goes to the home of Mary the mother of Mark, where many people were praying for him. A woman named Rhoda answers the door in shock. Acts 12:14-15 says, "When she recognized Peters voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, 'Peter is at the door!’ 'Youre out of your mind,’ they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, 'It must be his angel.’”

I find it funny that the people were praying for Peter, but when God did the miracle, they were in disbelief. How often do we find our own selves praying fervently but not expectantly. We know the Lord can answer prayers in mighty ways, but we refuse to believe that He actually will out of our own fears that He will say no or wait.

Even though the people ignore Rhoda, Peter keeps on knocking. Finally they open the door and in amazement they see him. Peter makes sure that they are silent so that they will not bring attention to his escape. He tells his friends and asks for them to share the story with others as he goes away to another place (Acts 12:16-18).

The Enemy’s Side

Acts 12:19 says, “After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.”

This verse hurts to read and think about how evil Herod was to execute the guards. It can serve as a reminder to us as we think through who we follow. Are we following the enemy who leads us to death, or the Savior Jesus who leads us to life? No, there is no guarantee of earthly life, but eternal life. These guards served an evil man who was attacking the people of God. This is no place to be and unfortunately, they were killed by Herod for the escape.

This teaches us to think about our own actions. Even if we are not frontrunners going against the Lord, if we stand by in support, we are equally responsible.

A Great Escape

Peter’s escape was done with confidence because of his trust in God, the power of people praying and the help of an angel. His story reminds us of the freedom that we too can experience in Jesus through all things. We can have great confidence in the Lord’s sovereignty. No, He may not always provide this type of escape from this world’s woes, however, He is good and He is in control and working out His kingdom plan. May Peter’s escape from prison motivate us that we are no longer chained down by sin, but we are freed through Christ.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/francescoch

Emma DanzeyEmma Danzey’s mission in life stems from Ephesians 3:20-21, inspiring young women to embrace the extraordinary. One of her greatest joys is to journey with the Lord in His Scriptures. She is wife to Drew for over two years and mom to baby Graham. Drew and Emma serve with Upstate CRU college ministry in South Carolina. Emma is an avid writer for Salem Web Network and provides articles on the Bible, life questions, and on the Christian lifestyle. Her article on Interracial Marriage was the number 1 viewed article on Crosswalk for the year 2021. All the glory to the Lord! She had the joy of hosting Her Many Hats podcast where she explored the many roles that women play while serving One God. Most recently, Emma has released her first Bible Study Book, Wildflower: Blooming Through Singleness.

Emma enjoys singing/songwriting, fitness classes, trying new recipes, home makeover shows, and drinking tea! During her ministry career, Emma recorded two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, ran the Refined Magazine, and served in music education for early childhood. Emma also had the privilege of having been a national spokesperson for Mukti Mission based out of India. Mukti has been working to restore shattered lives in India for over 120 years. You can view her articles through her blog at and check out her Bible Study videos on Instagram @Emmadanzey.